BLOG: Eye-Popping Tips

From Karen Saunders

Your Branding, Marketing & Self-Publishing Coach

“Murder your darlings”: A Writing tip for Halloween!

A writing tip from one of my team members, Patrice Rhoades-Baum reminds us to be objective when writing and editing our content.

A writing tip from Patrice Rhoades-BaumAs a marketing consultant and branding expert, she guides solopreneurs – such as professional speakers, corporate consultants, and business coaches – to create a clear brand, strategic website, and polished one sheet brochure. Patrice has a 35-year marketing background: 25 years in high-tech corporate marketing + 10 years as a business owner. She specializes in branding for small businesses and writing strategic, hardworking one sheet and website copy.


“Murder your darlings.”

It’s not a Halloween joke. It’s a century-old, highly respected writing tip!

A writing tip

Who said it?

According to Forrest Wickman’s research, Arthur Quiller-Couch offered this insightful advice in his widely reprinted 1913-1914 Cambridge lectures “On the Art of Writing”:

“Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it – whole-heartedly – and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.”

What does it mean?

Sometimes while writing, we create a sentence or paragraph that is particularly energetic. It flows! It sparkles! It may be brilliant!

But if that sentence or paragraph does not support your message, you need to kill it. You need to whip out your red pen or hit the delete key.

It breaks your heart, but it must be done.

I believe every word, every sentence must support the message. “Murder your darlings” reminds us to be objective when writing and editing our content.

We are servants of the message we seek to communicate. We cannot fall in love with a passage that does not serve our message.

I’ve been writing professionally for 30+ years, and I know it’s tough to “murder your darlings.” My advice? Take a breath. Buck up. Do it.

The more you “murder your darlings,” the easier it becomes. Implement this writing tip. Your message will be clear. Your writing improves. Everyone wins – except that “darling.”